How to Cultivate the Kind of Family You Want: Create a Family Manifesto

We had a positive parenting expert speak to our MOPS group last month. She opened with a visualization exercise. I don’t like these types of exercises mainly because I don’t like being told what to do or keeping my eyes closed. But since I’m the lead coordinator for our group, I wanted to set a good example. I closed my eyes and played along.

“I want you to picture what it’s going to be like to bring your baby to kindergarten one day,” she said. “Focus on the joy and excitement in that moment. See the little wave he gives you on your way out.”

“Now I want you to see your child at her tenth birthday party. All the siblings are getting along. You’re holding hands with your husband as she blows out the candles. What does your heart feel in this moment?”

“Now you’re watching her grab her diploma, and walk across the stage. You catch her eye from where you’re sitting and she pumps her fist in the air, in victory. Focus on how proud and joyful you feel.”

“Now you get a phone call. He could have told anyone but he called you first. ‘Mom, I’m in love,’ he says, ‘I think I’m going to marry her.’ Your eyes go soft and your smile grows wide. Focus on the joy of that moment.”

“Now picture the twinkle in your daughter’s eye, when she rubs her barely rounded belly and tells you you’re going to be a grandma. Your heart is nearly bursting. Think about how you’ll feel in that moment.”

The tears gathering in the corner of my eyes surprised me. I’m not a crier, and I’m more of a thinker than a feeler. I stole a glance at the thirty other moms in the room. All of us were misty-eyed and more than a few of us were wiping away tears. “Why are you teary?” I chided myself, “Get a hold of yourself!”

Later, when I had a chance to analyze my puzzling emotional reaction, I realized that most moms of young children don’t spend a lot of time picturing the future. We’re too busy in the very pressing needs of the present. It’s hard to think past whatever trench you’re in:

You think you’ll never get another night of uninterrupted sleep…until one day, you do.

You think you’ll always be nursing….until one day, you stop.

You think you’ll be changing diapers forever…until one day, you’re not.

You’re sure you’re going to be strapping toddlers into car seats for the rest of your life… until one day, you don’t need to.

Don’t get me wrong, moms are great at looking forward to the next milestone: I can’t wait until (fill in the blank). But actually picturing your family life several years in the future proves to be a deeper, more reflective exercise that we rarely make time for. What do you want your family culture to look like down the road? How do you want your kids to interact with each other, with you, with the world around them? Painting this mental picture can help you focus on the values that are right for your family NOW, even in the trenches.

If you’d like to parent more intentionally, I made a four page guide and a beautiful template for you to create your own family manifesto! Click the button below to get this free download!

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

5 thoughts on “How to Cultivate the Kind of Family You Want: Create a Family Manifesto

  1. What happens though when that phone call is not what you ever expected or when your child chooses to try to live without God or makes choices you don’t approve of or would never want for your child.

    This post came as I have been going through a hard time with the choices one of my adult children has made. The recriminations can be huge, the self-doubt, the “what did I do wrong”. But that is not God speaking.

    At the same time as I have been praying and seeking God, He literally dropped into my lap the book, “The Beauty of Broken” by Elisa Morgan. It has spoken powerfully to me and I wanted to share one quote.

    God does not evaluate my mothering by how perfectly or imperfectly my children develop. Rather, he expects me to address how I influence my children by how I yield to His love for me and then act it out in life. Period. He does not ask me to control their responses, their choices, or their consequences. I am to offer myself to God and to allow Him to use my best, but still flawed, mothering to shape their development. By His wounds we are healed, Isaiah 53:5. pg. 33-34

    Just something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, and your valuable perspective as a mom who is parenting older children! I’m so sorry that you’re walking through a hard season with one of your kids. It’s easy for us moms of little ones to think we’re always going to be in control, always going to have influence over our children, when in reality they will grow up and make their own decisions. I’m sure it becomes all too easy to pat ourselves on the back when they choose well, and blame ourselves when they don’t. I love the quote you shared, I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon! It is grace from God that He doesn’t evaluate our performance as mothers based on the outcome of our children. What a beautiful reminder that our responsibility starts and ends with offering ourselves to God and letting Him use our best/flawed parenting skills to shape our kids’ development!


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